Tillerson signs $6.4bn funding package with Jordan

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (Khaled Elfiqi/Pool photo via AP)
Updated 14 February 2018
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Tillerson signs $6.4bn funding package with Jordan

AMMAN: The US’ work on a new Middle East peace plan is “fairly well advanced,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Wednesday during a visit to Jordan to sign a five-year $6.4 billion aid package.
Tillerson said President Donald Trump would decide when to announce the peace plan. But he provided no details on the initiative, which comes amid deep Palestinian skepticism about US intentions.
The US infuriated even its Arab allies in December when Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and initiated the move of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he would not cooperate with the US in its efforts as a mediator.
“I have seen the (administration’s peace) plan... It’s been under development for a number of months. I have consulted with them on the plan, identified areas that we feel need further work. I will say it’s fairly well advanced...” Tillerson said.
There has been little detail on the plan so far. Officials told Reuters in December it would deal with all major issues, including Jerusalem, borders, security, the future of Jewish settlements on occupied land and the fate of Palestinian refugees, and would also urge Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states to provide significant financial support to the Palestinians.
The plan is being crafted by a team led by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, and US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, both of whom have traveled to key regional capitals since the Trump administration came to office.
Palestinians have grown increasingly concerned that any plan Trump unveils will shortchange them, a fear exacerbated by his move on Jerusalem, which upended decades of US policy that the status of the ancient city must be decided in negotiations.
Jerusalem is home to sites holy to Muslims, Jews and Christians.
Jordanian King Abdullah’s Hashemite dynasty is the custodian of the Muslim holy sites, making Amman particularly sensitive to any changes of status there. 
The king has warned that Trump’s decision could undermine stability and fuel radicalism.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Al-Safadi reiterated on Wednesday that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the “only solution we believe can work.”
The Trump administration has said it would back a two-state solution if the parties agreed to it.
Trump had threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that backed a UN resolution calling for Washington to reverse its Jerusalem decision. Jordan backed the resolution.
But the Trump administration has courted King Abdullah, a moderate pro-Western Arab leader whose kingdom has long upheld US interests in the region.
On Tuesday, Tillerson met the king at his residence where the two emphasized strong US-Jordanian ties.
Commenting on the memorandum of understanding signed for $6.375 billion in aid, the US State Department said: “(It) highlights the pivotal role Jordan plays in helping foster and safeguard regional stability and supports US objectives such as the global campaign to defeat ISIS (Daesh), counter-terrorism cooperation, and economic development.”
Conflicts in neighboring Syria and Iraq have damaged Jordan’s economy, forcing it to borrow heavily from external and domestic sources. Jordan has been an important part of the US-led coalition battling Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
Tillerson is also expected this week to visit Turkey, with which US ties have become badly strained over Washington’s support for the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria, regarded by Ankara as a terrorist group.
Tillerson said Washington had to “find a way to continue to work in the same direction.”
He also expressed concern over Saturday’s confrontation between Israel and “Iranian assets” in Syria. Syrian air defenses shot down an Israeli F-16 jet after it bombed a site used by Iran-backed forces in Syria.
Tillerson said Iran should withdraw its forces and militias from Syria, where Tehran backs President Bashar Assad.
Responding to the comments, a senior Iranian official, Ali Akbar Velayati, said Iran’s military presence in Syria was legitimate and based on an invitation from Damascus. He called on US forces to leave Syria.


Iraq’s Mosul logs civil records lost to years of Daesh rule

Iraqis wait at the Nineveh governorate building in Iraq's second city of Mosul to resolve issues related to their identity documents. (AFP)
Updated 7 min 46 sec ago
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Iraq’s Mosul logs civil records lost to years of Daesh rule

  • During the Daesh’s reign, thousands of Iraqis who lived in areas controlled by Daesh virtually disappeared from state registers
  • When Iraqi forces retook the city and courts reopened, he and his wife rushed to sign a new marriage contract

MOSUL: When Shahed was born in 2015 her father tried to notify Iraq’s civil registry. The problem was, their city of Mosul was held by Daesh group and the office had been shut.

Three years later, 39-year-old Ahmed Aziz has yet to officially register his daughter’s birth, the certificate for which bears the seal of the so-called caliphate.
Under the late summer sun, the taxi driver braves a long queue outside Mosul’s reopened civil registry, hoping that by the end of the day Shahed’s name will finally appear in state records.
The little girl was born just a year after Daesh swept across the country, seizing swathes of territory including Iraq’s second city Mosul.
“The civil registry was closed,” said Aziz, holding the IS-stamped document issued by a hospital in Mosul.
But since Iraqi forces ultimately regained control of the city in July 2017 after a bloody months-long campaign, residents have flooded the city’s reopened offices.
Thousands of children like Shahed had been born under Daesh rule, and the extremists had systematically blown up civil offices and archives.
“I saw this massive rush to get to the public offices, so I preferred to wait a bit before going there too,” said Aziz.
As a result, his daughter does not yet officially exist.
During the Daesh’s reign, thousands of Iraqis who lived in areas controlled by Daesh virtually disappeared from state registers.
Some lost their identity documents as neighborhoods turned into battle zones, others as they fled the violence.
Many of those who remained were given documents from Daesh’s proto-state — ministries and courts created by the jihadists to register births, marriages, deaths and trade agreements alike.
None of that paperwork has been recognized by Iraqi authorities.
When Zein Mohammed got married in 2014, he and his soon-to-be wife had to present themselves at an IS court to seal the deal.
What should have been the best day of the now 29-year-old civil servant’s life was instead a test.
“I appeared in front of the judge with my fiancee — she was covered head-to-toe in black,” he told AFP.
Under Daesh rule, Mosul’s residents were forced to bow to the jihadists ultra-conservative demands.
Women were compelled to fully cover themselves in black veils and long robes, and civil cases were heard by courts that dealt out death sentences and corporal punishment for “sins..”
“The judge issued us a marriage certificate bearing the IS seal,” said Mohammed.
When Iraqi forces retook the city and courts reopened, he and his wife rushed to sign a new marriage contract.
Now, packed in among the crowd outside Mosul’s civil registry, Mohammed is hoping to finally regularize their marital status.
Iraqi civil servants are working around the clock to meet the massive demand, compiling files, verifying identities and registering official documents and certificates.
It is a titanic job, often slowed due to additional safeguards imposed by Iraqi security services in the former IS stronghold.
To weed out fake IDs and spot jihadists seeking to slip through the cracks, “intelligence services check each document,” head of Mosul’s registry office General Hussein Mohammed Ali told AFP.
But the added security measures have not hampered progress.
“More than a million certified documents and more than 2,000 passports have already been issued,” he said.
Mustafa Thamer, a 23-year-old student, is applying for his first passport even though he has no plans to travel soon.
“We say we must have a passport so that we can leave whenever we want,” he told AFP.
“We lived under IS occupation and we no longer trust the future of the city,” he said.
“Anything can happen in Mosul.”